An Interview With Andy Aldridge
Creator of the Site: A Head Full Of Wishes
Jenell: Dearest readers, I’ve always felt that Galaxie 500 represented the first successful take on the neo-psychedelic sound, and to that end tonight I have the great pleasure of sitting down with Andy Aldridge, a low-keyed obsessive fan and founder of the site A Head Full Of Wishes, a labor of love, which is a fount of information regarding Galaxie 500, Luna, Dean & Britta along with Damon & Naomi … Andy, thank you for taking the time to let me bend your ear … and I must say, this is the first time I’ve ever interviewed anyone when we were both wearing the same T-shirt.
Andy: You’re very welcome Jenell, there’s not much I like talking about more than things related to A Head Full of Wishes so thanks so much for giving me the chance!
Jenell: As noted in the opening, I was personally struck by the neo-psychedelic sound or perhaps folk-psychedelic sound of Galaxie 500, and Dean (Wareham) certainly references the psychedelic years in his solo song The Dancer Disappears, were you always a fan of psych music, and if not, what did you hear in Galaxie 500 that grabbed your attention?
Andy: I guess that along the way psychedelic music has quite often been creeping into my life without me really realizing it. My first obsession was the glam scene in the UK in the early 70s. I was a big fan of T-Rex and Sweet plus all the stuff I inherited from my parents and my brother – The Beatles, Nancy & Lee, pre-Beatles rock n’ roll.
When I finally found my musical independence it was with Motorhead in the late 70s – which inevitably led me backwards to the British psych bands like Hawkwind, The Pink Fairies, T-Rex, and then to The Velvet Underground although I’m not sure I went beyond the first album for quite a few years. I also had a love for British folk rock like Fairport Convention and Pentangle. But my discovery of Galaxie 500 came from another direction completely. I’d found a copy of REM’s Reckoning at a record sale in the mid-80s which I played to death, and then saw The Long Ryders at The Guildford Civic Hall when they were touring State of Our Union and this started to push me into a different direction.
Then in the late 80’s Ken Sweeney started working at the BBC Film & VT Library where I was working. Ken had released a beautiful 7” in Dublin A Million Miles, under the name Brian, and he knew so much about the music that I was still only paddling around the edges of. Ken would give me tapes of things that he had acquired and one of the tapes he gave me had an American Music Club album on one side Engine or California that he wanted me to listen to, but the other side of the tape was Galaxie 500’s On Fire, this was possibly before the album was released over here. Life changing [said while beaming from ear to ear]. I listened to very little else for weeks, picked up the CD when it was released and the vinyl LP of Today. ‘Hooked’ is all I can say.
I’m not sure I thought of Galaxie 500 as psychedelic as such, though I did spot the VU influence, but probably didn’t really think of them as psychedelic either. To be honest I’m not sure I was really aware of “psych” as a movement or a genre at all. Ken introduced me to lots of bands that, thinking back, would sort of lead me in that direction, Rain Parade who I know you’ve reviewed, Miracle Legion, Big Star, Let’s Active, but that’s not how I thought of them.
Jenell: I know that Galaxie 500 came to the U.K. rather quickly, where and when did you first see the band, and how soon was it before you made their acquaintance?
Andy: I saw Galaxie 500 only twice, first time was in June 1990 at the Subterania, which was under the Westway in Ladbroke Grove. I still get shivers thinking about it, the albums had sucked me in but this live show, particularly when they played “Ceremony” as an encore, with Kramer [Kramer produced the early G500 albums] is really the seed that grew into A Head Full of Wishes.
[scratching his head trying to recall] Second time was at their last London date in November 1990 at ULU, my memories of this show are confused and sadly hazy. The venue was packed and I never got a good view, so the things I remember are more about the crowd than the show, with one guy screaming for “Submission” between every song, along with the couple in front who were much more interested in each other than the band. I wish I remembered it better and if I’d know it was going to be the last time I’d have tried harder! I should also have seen them opening for The Sundays in February 1990 but Harriet from The Sundays had a sore throat when the tour reached London and the show was postponed, Ken and I ended up at a crappy gig at The Mean FIddler while Galaxie 500 played a hastily rescheduled show at The Falcon which we only heard about after the event. Sadly for me, Naomi described that show as one of her fondest memories, it breaks my heart every time I think about it!
After the band split I kept following both acts. Luna played in London in February 1992 which was brilliant and made the Galaxie 500 split less sad.
I set up A Head Full of Wishes in 1994, although it didn’t get that proper name until much later. Someone on the demon.ip.support.amiga newsgroup posted about a company who was giving away free web space, which was unheard of back then, so I nabbed myself some space without really knowing what to do with it. I picked Galaxie 500, Luna and Damon & Naomi, popped up a discography and anything else I could glean from record sleeves, music papers and the internet. And then people started emailing me!
The first time I met these any of these new internet friends in real life was at the Luna show at The Garage in December of 1995. I remember Lauren, who was an American living in London and playing in a band called Dart trying to get me to talk to Dean after the show but I never got up the nerve. As an aside … the funny thing about Lauren was that the first time I met her at that gig she asked after my friend Harvey. I didn’t understand firstly how she knew Harvey, and secondly how she knew that I knew Harvey!? I mostly knew Harvey as the guy I worked with at the BBC, she knew him as Harvey Williams of the bands Another Sunny Day and The Field Mice. I was of course aware of Harvey’s other career I just wasn’t really aware of just how significant it was!
I finally got the nerve to talk to Dean after the show at LA2 in October 1997. He was really nice, he signed my ticket, and I must have given him my phone number because a few days later I got home from work to find a message from him on my answerphone. Obviously not being there to take the call was the best thing that could have happened, we were both spared an awkward conversation and I have kept that recording of Dean Wareham ringing me up. It’s one of my favourite bits of memorabilia!
I’ve spoken to Dean at most shows after that although the weirdest experience was when Hazel (Andy’s wife) and I were in NYC for a couple of shows in February 2001. They’d just released Luna Live and I was cheeky enough to ask Dean at the Knitting Factory show if he had a vinyl copy I could have and get signed. He said he didn’t but told me to ring him up the next day and he’d sort something out. So, slightly terrified I made that call and he said that we should come round to his apartment, though I was hoping for a meeting on neutral territory.
So Hazel and I made our way to Dean’s place. It was freezing that weekend, and snowing and when we went into Dean’s apartment it was so very very hot that I just started sweating … and didn’t stop. We sat down, had a cup of tea and had that awkward conversation with Dean while Claudia (Dean’s then wife) and Jack (Dean’s son), a large dog and another guy whom I can’t remember carried on around the flat. We finished our tea as quickly as was polite and Dean loaded me up with records and posters and we left. I peeled my body off the sofa and didn’t dare turn round to see the sweat patch I had undoubtedly left behind. [Andy looking embarrassed but we were both laughing.]
Jenell: During those early years, Damon and Naomi seemed to be rather secretive as individuals, did you find that to be so?
Andy: Damon and Naomi had been over to London with Magic Hour in 1994 but I somehow managed to miss them then so I didn’t get to talk to either of them until they played at the 12 Bar in March 1997. I’ve spoken to them at most London shows since and they are such lovely people. The first meetings were awkward, maybe it was me that made it that way. I had initially been unaware just how bad the Galaxie 500 break-up had been, though in 1997 they gave an interview to Ptolemaic Terrascope that revealed just how hard the split had been, and that the wounds weren’t healed. As someone who had feet in both camps I started to imagine I was the child of acrimoniously divorced parents, too scared to mention one around the other.
Around then I had written to Damon and Naomi proposing a sort of fan-club single but the response made it very clear, in the sweetest way, that they couldn’t do anything that might also involve Dean, so that idea was shelved! But it meant that for subsequent meetings I was scared I’d make some terrible faux-pas, like accidentally calling Damon “Dean” or saying how much I loved Luna. So I imagine my conversations were a little… strained.
The first time I was brave enough to talk to Naomi about Galaxie 500 was after their Terrastock London performance in 1999, and even then I left most of the talking to another fan who didn’t have the anxieties I had. But over the years things became much more relaxed … I love them both so much and they’re easy and friendly and fun, and not really secretive. But so very different from Dean, I think I’m closer in personality to Damon and Naomi.
Jenell: For me, Galaxie 500 seemed so emotionally open, like touching a stigmata, listening to them was almost a private coming of age experience.
Andy: Between Galaxie 500 splitting up in 1991 and me receiving my first email from a Galaxie 500 fan in 1994 or ’95, I thought I was the only Galaxie 500 fan in the world. My friends who’d come to the gigs with me didn’t seem to love them the way I did. Discovering that there were people who missed them as much as I did was a revelation, the Internet opened up to me doorways I could never have imagined, and the key to those doors was Galaxie 500.
Jenell: Let me turn the tables here. Most music fans today have no idea what a fanzine is, would you please explain that, and please follow that up with your conception for A Head Full Of Wishes, and what was your first outing like?
Andy: Fanzines were cheaply produced DIY magazines made by fans and sold to fans normally at gigs or in indie record shops. I loved fanzines although didn’t keep them or treasure them the way I wish I had and I have very few left. I was never a fanzine maker, in the days before the Internet I think you needed to have a certain confidence to be able to make and sell them, and that was something I never had.
Jenell: As far as fanzines go, did you ever consider or present a pulp issue of A Head Full Of Wishes or was it always an online adventure?
Andy: A Head Full of Wishes was a child of the World Wide Web, it only existed because the web gave me an opportunity and the great thing about having a website is that it doesn’t really matter if no one visits it. I was always doing AHFoW primarily for me. The fact that it appealed to others and built into a community was a bonus, but not essential. I think I’d have carried on doing it regardless. It gave me a challenge, it taught me things, and it had a huge influence on my career, I wouldn’t be working where I work or doing what I do if it hadn’t been for AHFoW.
There were really two arms to A Head Full of Wishes … the website itself and the community that built around it. That community started in the summer of 1995 when I set up an internet mailing list which fairly quickly grew to over 500 members. It had its ups and downs over the years and currently has its strongest presence on Facebook. I never really thought about it as anything except a website and some form of online community.
Jenell: And speaking of fanzines, you have just published one, though for you it was sort of like walking the cat backwards, what was it like moving to an actual print format?
Andy: Yes, despite everything I just said A Head Full of Wishes did become a fanzine this year. A few years ago a beautiful book was produced called Foxtrot Echo Lima Tango that was described as “a fanzine about Felt” … it wasn’t really a fanzine, it was put together by fans but it was a proper book, beautifully compiled and lovingly curated. But not a fanzine as I knew them. I bought a copy and looked at it and thought “Galaxie 500 should have something like this”. The idea stewed for a while, then Mike McGonigal’s “Temperature’s Rising” came out, and it’s a beautiful book full of the memorabilia and the memories of the protagonists but the one thing that was missing from it was the fan’s viewpoint.
I posted in social media in early 2017 for contributions and got some gems, not as many as I’d have liked but what was lacking in quantity was made up for in quality. The clincher was the two beautiful sets of photos that John and Robert let me include. It was surprisingly hard work … I wanted it to be “home made” like a proper fanzine, but didn’t feel I could do my photocopying at work, like true fanzines would have been made in the past. Work photocopiers these days are now linked to your network account, so the days of secretly stealing paper, ink and time from work are over. So I had to convince a professional printer that I wanted him to print the pages but that I wanted to hand print the covers and staple the booklets together myself. I liked the idea that every copy was different, not just because of the hand-written number but because of the staples or the slightly random positioning of the front cover print, or the odd inky fingerprint that found its way onto a cover or two!
Jenell: Do you think that there’s still a place for fanzines in general?
Andy: Making things has always been an important part of being a fan, I made a website in 1994 for some of the same reasons that other fans were making fanzines for the music they loved. I think that the change in the industry has placed a higher value, not necessarily a monetary value, on physical objects so as music became digital so the fans needed and wanted a physical record of being a fan, that is manifesting itself in fanzines and posters and books, and of course the vinyl revival. You hear stories of folk buying records without having the means to play them, and I think that’s OK, beautiful even, music is and always has been so much broader than just the notes … and if we feel the need to own a record we can’t play that’s not a problem for me. A record is so much more than just the tracks, it’s the liner notes and lyrics, it’s the big artwork and creative packaging, it’s something for the band to sign.
Jenell: Besides flying the flag, what inspired you to keep the site going through the various incarnations of G500, Luna, D&B and D&N, and did you ever think that it would last this long?
Andy: I don’t think I ever thought I’d stop, I didn’t see why. In 2007 I wrote a post on my personal blog mourning the imminent end of the fan site. I don’t think, even then, I thought I’d ever stop, I just thought that things were changing and I, as a fan site owner, needed to try and understand how that change would affect me. It certainly helped that Dean and Damon and Naomi just kept on working and doing things so varied and interesting, there was very little time for AHFoW to lose momentum! The ex-members of Galaxie 500 were making films, recording soundtracks, curating events, writing books, directing videos, and still making and touring music. I’ve never had a let-up in the 23 years, and there doesn’t seem to be any let-up coming!
Jenell: Do you hear from your readers? Have you ever met any?
Andy: As I said earlier it was 1995 when I first met internet fans, I’d periodically get an email from someone saying they were going to be in London and should we meet? I am not a very social person so it was often quite difficult for me to do this, it still is. But luckily, like the band members, the fans are, seemingly without exception, lovely people, that makes it easier. So every time I was going to a Luna or Damon & Naomi gig I’d post that I was going to be there and invite folk to track me down, that put the ball in their court … and they did. But the relationship was bigger than actual in person meetings, we established strong virtual relationships too.
When Luna announced that their final dates were going to be in NYC at the end of February 2005 I’d resigned myself to not going, and that was OK, they were playing in London in January, I could say my farewells then. But some folk on the mailing list decided to start a fund to fly me over [to NYC for the final show at the Bowery], it was beautiful and touching, and a little embarrassing for someone as uptight as me. But on Boxing Day of 2004 a massive earthquake occurred in the Indian ocean causing a tsunami and huge devastation to the mostly poor communities in the region, more than 200 000 people were killed and nearly 2 million lost their homes. It was heartbreaking, these people needed money, and I couldn’t take money for a jolly to the US while millions of people had no homes. I asked the donors if they minded if I gave the money to the relief fund and I’d say my goodbyes to Luna in London in January. They were all kind enough to agree. I made the right decision, although it was weird not being there. Britta wrote a lovely email to me after the show, and signed it off with the words “YOU WERE THERE”, and I cried!
Jenell: Your site has become more interactive, especially with your end of year material, what spurred you to make AHFoW more encompassing than merely a diary or journal?
Andy: I think the main reason is that A Head Full of Wishes grew up in parallel with the World Wide Web, the first graphical web browser was launched in 1993 and AHFoW was launched in 1994. It was my training ground as the web developed, so did AHFoW, as the web became more interactive so did the site. The site was never a diary or a journal, it had aspects of that for sure, but it was an information resource and theoretically a research resource, I believe Dean used it to check dates for his book! Also, I think because of the community aspect it always had a certain amount of interactivity, although the difference between a mailing list and the more modern social tools this is happening more publicly. The first AHFoW survey happened in December 1995, there’s been one every year since.
Jenell: Of course this brings me to the song Dear Paulina and the 7” you put out, would you expand on that?
Andy: As I mentioned earlier I had written to Damon & Naomi in 1997 about the possibility of a fan-club single, they declined, but the idea didn’t go away. A couple of years later I emailed Dean with a similar request, he said he would talk to the band and get me a demo or something. A few weeks later a DAT [Digital Audio Tape] arrived with a note saying which tracks I could use on the single. I was thrilled that these were songs that hadn’t been released before, songs I knew nothing about. Both tracks were from the soundtrack of the film “Thursday”, but the film had been a bit of a flop and so no soundtrack album was made. I’m not sure Dean was allowed to release the tracks so the single was probably [laughing] a borderline bootleg.
Now I had a DAT but absolutely no idea what to do next, I emailed Dom Martin of Earworm records to see if he could help, and though I didn’t know him, I just loved his label. He put me onto a company that would do the mastering and pressing, and another that would do the sleeve printing. The single was mastered at Abbey Road, yep, that Abbey Road [famed for The Beatles], Hazel and I went and sat in on the mastering even though we had no real idea what we were doing … it was a thrill … we were in Abbey Road! There were 500 copies pressed, I gave 50 to Luna as payment and I don’t think I did the business side of things correctly at all, then gave them most of the ones I had left over. This was in the days before PayPal and I was hampered by the fact that most of my potential sales were to people the US. I charged a “carefully concealed $5 bill” and sold a couple of hundred and then just started giving them away to anyone who asked. I lost a fair bit of money but then it was never about making money in the first place.
Jenell: Luna occupy a lighter more ethereal musical space, and there’s a clear line of demarcation between Lunapark and all of their other albums … coming from G500, was Lunapark a surprise for you?
Andy: I don’t remember being surprised by Lunapark. When Dean’s Anesthesia single came out in early 1992 it was just a relief that Dean was still making music, and the single version of Anesthesia was perfect … it’s still one of my favourite things Dean has released, and maybe helped by the sense of relief. Lunapark came out in summer of 1992 and Damon & Naomi’s More Sad Hits a few months later and I missed Galaxie 500 a little bit less.
Jenell: Your year-end survey consistently ranks Penthouse as Luna’s number one album, though one reviewer wrote regarding Rendezvous, “This album is brilliant, these songs are the high point of any live performance, magnificently constructed, textured with guitar washes, notes that bend, and layered with sounds at both the high and low ends that are totally engulfing. To try and place a genre on this music is nearly impossible … if I were to simply call this neo-psychedelic or dream-pop, I would be both on the mark, and off of it by a mile. Perhaps it would be better to describe “Rendezvous” as a feeling or a drug, because Luna certainly settles into the cortex of my brain, leaving me limp and wasted. Please blow out the candles before you leave, I want to lay here and watch the orange moon move across the sky for a little while longer.” To that end, do fan choices ever surprise you?
Andy: I think when a band has a body of work as amazing as Luna that the choices are likely to be influenced by more than just the music. The survey reveals that the fanbase is growing older with the band and maybe Penthouse is us, the fans, looking back a little, it’s hard to fight nostalgia. Having said that I normally vote for Penthouse because it’s an amazing album. Rendezvous is amazing too. To be honest the real surprise I get from the survey is that Pup Tent doesn’t get more votes. I reassure myself by thinking that it’s probably everybody’s second favourite Luna album!
Jenell: [laughing] Have you ever considered that Luna or Damon & Naomi use your year-end surveys to establish their set-lists?
Andy: To be honest I try not to think too much about whether the bands visit my website, but everyone Googles themselves right? So they probably come across it.
Many years ago Dean said in an interview that he joined the mailing list but got frustrated that he couldn’t correct the nonsense we were talking … so he left. Dean also wrote to me once asking me to correct the lyrics to “Victory Garden” because he’d got grief from Mayo Thompson of Red Crayola about Galaxie 500 getting them wrong when actually it was my fault, or more accurately whoever I’d gotten the lyrics from. When Britta joined Luna she joined the mailing list and became a keen and active member. She was brilliant, I was slightly worried that list members knowing that a band member was on the list might stifle discussion, but that didn’t happen at all.
Jenell: Would you talk about your relation to Damon & Naomi a bit, both the people and the musical band?
Andy: Damon and Naomi have been releasing amazing music consistently since the break-up of Galaxie 500. Luna and Damon & Naomi took different roads, you can trace them both back to Galaxie 500 but they are quite far apart now. Damon and Naomi open doors and windows, and leave them open. It affects their music and how I listen to them. They require and reward close listening. Their music is less, instant than the music Dean makes, but I love that. I love learning different ways to listen to music. As people there are few I’ve met that are as nice as they are, they’ve always made me feel comfortable around them, they treat me like a friend. To be honest that’s the most mind-blowing thing, I’m friends with all the members of my favourite ever band, how fucking amazing is that!
Jenell: When Damon and Naomi stepped away from G500, they entered a whole new realm as well, now incorporating artwork and presentations that are as essential to the the music, as the music is to the artwork and presentation.
Andy: I think music is a much more visual medium than some people credit it with … I think it always has been … and certainly is very important to me … so I appreciate bands who are aware of music beyond just the songs. The package and the presentation are as important as the music. Damon and Naomi appreciate this. Just look at their album covers, almost every one is a work of art [looking from side to side as if anyone were listening] there’s only one I’m not keen on [though he won’t say which]. And look at all the art Naomi did for Galaxie 500. Beautiful. Bands who ignore that are not complete.
Jenell: Are you a saver of memorabilia, and if so, what are some of your most treasured?
Andy: I am, although I wish I was better at it. I’ve worked in archives all of my life, so I know how valuable artifacts are, and how much more valuable they become over time. I have boxes of things, I have a small study just full of disorganized chaos. I have tubes of posters and piles of CDs and cassettes just laying around. I imagine if you were ever to visit me you’d be horrified. I think the ones I treasure most are the ones with a story. When Romantica came out Dean sent me a promo CD and some stickers … one sticker was signed “For Adam” for my son who was five at the time. [head hung down] I never gave it to him!
Damon & Naomi sent me a Playback Singers postcard which had a tiny little photo of them stuck to the back. Not quite “memorabilia” but I also get an amazing buzz seeing my name in the booklet of the Galaxie 500 Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste DVD and in the end credits of Tell Me Do You Miss Me.
Jenell: I’ve always found it awkward to know a band personally, and still want to be the ever gushing fan … how’s that worked out for you?
Andy: I know, it’s so hard, I guess it might be hard for them too, friends and fans are different beasts and I like to think of myself as both equally. I hope they do too!
Jenell: You’ve settled in with a group of musicians who are very open and willing to expose themselves for you, you must feel very fortunate?
Andy: I think that’s the thing I’m most thankful for. Everyone I’ve met because of AHFoW, fan or band member, has been a pleasure to meet. I think the best bands have the best fans, and Galaxie 500, Luna and Damon & Naomi are the best bands. We get the bands we deserve and they get the fans they deserve … we’re all lucky.
Jenell: There are people reading this because they too want to create a space for music that touches their lives … here are some questions people have posed to me, and feel free to elaborate on other aspects you might think necessary or informative:
-What is the essence of a good music site?
-How much time does A Head Full Of Wishes occupy in your life?
-Are there expenses other than time?
-How should people contact a band?
-What about copyrights to images and links to music being published?
-When you began, there was no Facebook, yet you appear to have had access to server space at a time when that was limited?
-What’s the secret to keeping things interactive with other likeminded individuals?
-How do you engage the artists to tease out often overlooked stories, concepts and ideas?
I realize this will be a lengthy answer, so I’ll sit back and let you have at it …
Andy: Wow, I could talk forever on this, and I think I may have talked too much already. As some of the answers can be gleaned from the rest of the interview I’ll see if I can keep this short. A good music site has heart, it’s done for the best of reasons and because you want to do it. The amount of time I spend varies but it’s my hobby, I’d say I spend as much time on AHFoW as a gardener spends in their garden or a trainspotter spends spotting trains. Hobbies cost money and AHFoW is no different, but I don’t go out drinking or smoking so what else would I spend my money on. I do get returns though, sometimes physical and sometimes just in the form of a warm glow. Contacting a band is so easy now, assuming you’re not trying to get in touch with Bono or Morrissey or Madonna. I must admit to having only given cursory consideration to copyright, I ask if I can and credit if I know. AHFoW is a non-commercial, fan endeavor, I have my contact details on the site, if I’ve used something I shouldn’t I hope someone would get in touch with me rather than getting in touch with their lawyer.
I was lucky enough to get free web space from various places over the years. I then started paying for servers as I needed more than just space. I now use Amazon Web Services. It costs, but not too much. I don’t think I have a secret – to be honest it’s the like-minded individuals who have kept things interactive. I don’t really engage the artists in that way, they’ll tell me if they want to, I’m probably not a great advert for the fan site in that respect!
Jenell: In the documentary Tell Me Do You Miss Me, everyone openly talked about the final show as it ebbed ever closer. I’m sure that as long as Luna, Dean & Britta, and Damon & Naomi are making music, that A Head Full Of Wishes will continue in place, though have you ever considered the final chapter for AHFOW?
Jenell: Thanks for spending a bit of time, one obsessed fan to another. Please tell our readers where they can find you on the world wide web, and anything else you might like to say.
Andy: Thanks Jenell, it’s been a pleasure! I’m all over the internet like a rash – a search for “grange85” or “A Head Full of Wishes” will almost certainly find me in all the usual places!
– Jenell Kesler
A Head Full Of Wishes Official Website